Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Oxkintok Part 1 of 4: The pyramids, temples, and palaces of the Ah Canul Group

The West Pyramid of the Ah Canul Group at the ancient Maya city of Oxkintok. This is the largest of three pyramids in the Ah Canul Group. When we visited, we flew to Merida and rented a car for the 176km (109mi) drive to Campeche. Oxkintok is located in Yucatan, a short distance off Highway 180. It is about 1/3 of the way to Campeche from Merida. We had previously checked our map for points of interest along the way and decided to stop at this ancient ruin.

Oxkintok is at the extreme northwest tip of the Puuc Region. The Maya word Puuc means "hills", and this region is the only elevated part of the Yucatan Peninsula. Oxkintok was strategically located on the edge of the coastal plains at the base of the hills. This made it a transit point between the city-states of the Puuc and those of the plains. In addition, the Gulf Coast seashore is not far away, which gave the city access to marine products.

The Ah Canul Group is much too large and complex to show in one posting, so I will do it in two. The first will cover the main ceremonial structures, as well as a couple of elite palaces. In the second posting, I will focus on three plazas that are surrounded by the residential compounds of Oxkintok's governing class of nobles, priests, and military leaders.


Map of Oxkintok. The modern access road cuts diagonally across the ruins, bisecting them from west to east. While the map shows a large number of structures on both sides of the road, archeologists believe the most important parts of the city are on the south side of it. They are identified above as (A) El Satunsat (the Labyrinth), (B) El Grupo Ah May, (C) El Grupo Ah Canul, and (6) Zbid ( also known as El Grupo Ah Dzib). My series on Oxkintok will focus on these four areas. I decided to begin with Ah Canul, because it was the center of Oxkintok's power and contains some of the most impressive monuments.

During our visit, Carole and I spent a couple of hours inspecting and photographing all four groups of structures. Only later, after I found the map above, did I realize that Oxkintok's size and complexity was much greater than what we saw. A return visit may well be in order. Maps of Maya ruins are often unavailable at the sites themselves. Even when they are, the maps are sometimes incomplete. In advance of any visit to Maya ruins, consider scouring the internet for the most complete site maps you can find. This may keep you from missing important parts of a ruin that you have traveled far to see.

A turkey vulture searches for carrion as it soars high above Oxtkintok. In Mexico, this bird is called a buitre, but its scientific name is Cathartes aura. Its range is from southern Canada to the southern tip of South America. The turkey vulture likes open and semi-open areas where it can easily spot carrion. This makes the northern plains of Yucatan a particularly good hunting ground. The bird locates the carrion with the help of its excellent senses of sight and smell. The ancient Maya were very much in tune with their natural environment. Throughout their culture, you can find the animals of their world represented in their art, religion, and architecture, as well as their clothing and personal ornaments. Archeologists call this zoomorphism.

Site map of the Ah Canul, Ah DzibAh May, and the Satunsat. The other groups are shown so that you can understand their physical relationships with each other. However, this map only identifies specific structures within the Ah Canul Group. In future postings, I will include maps that identify structures within the other groups.

During our visit, I noticed that some of the most prominent monuments and structures had no identifying signs, while several of the smaller structures were well marked. As I prepared for this posting, I researched every archeological description and site map that I could find. All of my sources identified some structures in common. However, each source also identified structures that the others didn't. Further, all of them left some obviously important pyramids, palaces, temples, and plazas completely unidentified. This puzzled me greatly.

In order to help you orient yourself within the ruins, I combined all the identified structures into three maps, one for each group. I then created my own labels for structures I had photographed which were unnamed. I invite corrections. In the meantime, we'll just go with my labels.

The West Pyramid

The West Pyramid and the West Temple. These two stand on a low platform that also contains several other Ah Canul structures. Similar platforms can be found in many of Yucatan's Maya cities. Some of them were massive construction projects in their own right. To the right of the West Pyramid, you can see the broad staircase of the West Temple. Their proximity leads me to believe they are related in some way. Both the pyramid and the temple lacked identifying markers and there is no mention of them in the literature or site maps.

Potsherd analysis shows that human occupation at Oxkintok lasted from approximately 600 BC to 1500 AD, a whopping 2,100 years! However, Oxkintok's period of greatest activity lasted about 750 years, beginning in the Early Classic Era (300 AD) and ending in the Terminal Classic (1050 AD). While this timespan is shorter, it still exceeds the total period of occupation of many other pre-hispanic cities.

Ah Canul's platform is accessed by a broad four-step staircase. The West Pyramid's stairs can be seen in the background. In the center foreground is a small stone disk, carefully positioned to line up with the pyramid. Since there is no informational marker, I can only speculate as to the purpose of the cylinder. It could be an altar of some sort, but most altars are much larger.

However, you can visualize a direct line from the cylinder to the center of the pyramid's top. This suggests that the cylinder might be a marker point for astronomical observations. The West Pyramid faces east and the rays of the rising sun would first touch its top level and then work down until they came to the disk. One of the most important Maya gods was K'inich Ahau, the sun god, and the pyramid may have been devoted to him.

The West Temple

The West Temple is smaller but more complex than the West Pyramid. Above, a staircase with two landings leads to rooms at the top and the rear of the temple. At the base of the staircase is a stone structure that may be the remains of an altar. Ah Canul's platform can be seen in the foreground.

View from above of the West Temple and its rear rooms. I took this shot from the top of the West Pyramid. The West Temple is honeycombed with rooms and passageways not readily evident from below or in front. These compartments may have served ritual purposes or they could have been residences for priests who performed ceremonies at the West Pyramid.

The North Structure

The North Structure is located in the northwestern corner of the Ah Canul platform. In the middle-distance, you can see the four-step staircase that leads up to the platform. The base of the West Pyramid's staircase can also be seen in the upper right. Immediately behind the North Structure is another building that may or may not be part of its complex. These structures are also unidentified except by me.

The North Structure from above. This shot was taken from the West Pyramid's top. On the left front of the structure is a sunken patio. To its right is a broad, flat, raised area which may have been a terrace. Across the front of the building is an arcade supported by two rectangular pillars. The arcade's roof is missing and may have once been made from perishable materials. At the left end of the arcade, a doorway leads to the interior. The stone roof over the main structure is largely intact. 

The North Structure was probably a palace and may have once been occupied by a ruler or a high priest. Among the pre-hispanic Maya, the same person often served in both roles. The location of the North Structure further suggests a top-level occupant. The palace has a commanding view of the West Pyramid and of the platform in front of it. There, important ceremonies would have been performed. The North Structure is also at the access point to the North Plaza and the East Pyramid. A wide, three-step staircase connects the eastern end of the palace to the West Pyramid. This leads up to another platform level containing the North Plaza and its surrounding structures.

Interior of the North Structure palace. The rooms are small, the passageways are narrow and there is little light except for what filters through the doorways. It is not a sumptuous residence by todays standards. However, it is much larger and more solid than the Maya nah (thatched hut) that was the typical dwelling of common people.

The climate in this part of Yucatan is warm and 35-40 inches of rain falls each year, primarily from June to October. The thick stone walls would have provided insulation to moderate the hot season temperatures and the interior would probably have been dryer and more comfortable than a nah, even in the rainiest periods.

Close behind the North Structure are the remains of another impressive building. It runs parallel to the palace and contains one large room. It is unclear whether this is an annex of the palace or a separate residence. The long rectangular structure sits on a stone platform about 1m (3.3ft) high. On top of that is a smaller platform, the base of which is rimmed by stone cylinders resembling small drums. This feature is typical of the Puuc architectural style. Puuc decorative elements tend to be for aesthetic purposes, rather than structural. This means that you could remove them and the building would still stand on its own. 

Palacio Pop (Structure C-3) and the North Plaza

Palacio Pop forms the north side of the North Plaza. The Maya word Pop means matting and archeologists gave the palace this name because of the matting design painted on the floor. To the pre-hispanic Maya, matting was a symbol associated with royalty. The palace also carries the technical name of Structure C-3, making it the first of the clearly identified buildings I found at Ah Canul. Palacio Pop is one of the earliest of Oxkintok's constructions and it was built during the Early Classic Era (300 AD-500AD). A door lintel found nearby was carved with a Maya calendar date corresponding to 487 AD.

Diagram of Palacio Pop. The palace stands on the northern edge of the Ah Canul platform, to the east of the North Structure. Oddly, Palacio Pop does not face south, into the North Plaza, but north, away from it. The one-story building has three parallel rooms and a fourth on the west end which is perpendicular to them. Most of the parallel room at the top of the diagram is gone, but a portion on the west end still exists.

During excavation, three tombs were discovered within Palacio Pop. One, called Tomb 5, was intact and contained rich grave goods. The other two, which flanked it, had been looted in ancient times and little remained. Tomb 5 was a secondary burial, meaning the remains of the individual had been buried elsewhere and the bones were later moved here. All three burials occurred in the Middle Classic period (500-630 AD)

Among the grave goods in Tomb 5 were a jade mosaic mask embedded with cinnabar, a ceramic vessel, and a collection of obsidian objects. Both the vessel and the obsidian originated in the Petén region of northern Guatemala. Additional obsidian from that area was also found in the looted tombs. Other grave goods in Tomb 5 include a variety of jade objects originating in the Rio Motogua Valley in southern Guatemala. Finally, there were large numbers of ornaments originating from the northern coast of Yucatan. They were made from the shells of Spondylus americansus, the Atlantic thorny oyster. All of this indicates the extensive trade networks through which Oxkintok's elite were able to obtain luxury goods.

The west end of Palacio Pop is covered with numbered blocks of stone. In the process of reconstructing the palace, archeologists apparently removed part of the structure and numbered the blocks so they would know where to replace them. This is a common practice at many archeological sites in Mexico.

A large circular altar stands in the middle of the North Plaza. The altar looks to be about 2m (6ft) across. It is typical of pre-hispanic plazas to contain altars. In my experience, most are square in shape, but a fair number are circular. An altar like this was the focal point for rituals and ceremonies. In addition to these activities, the plaza would also have functioned as a gathering place for elite social and political activities. 

In the upper right, you can see the rear of the West Pyramid, which forms the west side of the plaza. Another large unnamed pyramid stands on the plaza's south side. The base of it can be seen in the upper left. However, what I saw at the time was simply a large hump thickly covered by trees and shrubbery. I was stunned when I later studied site maps and I realized that I had walked right by one of the largest pyramids in the Ah Canul Group. 

The East Pyramid (Structure C-4)

The East Pyramid forms the eastern side of the North Plaza. The view here is from the front right corner. There was a sign at the site which provided its technical name (C-4) and some additional information. The small roofless room in the lower left of the photo may have been the habitation of priests associated with the pyramid. Alternatively, it could have been used to store equipment or supplies related to the rituals and ceremonies conducted in the North Plaza or in the temple atop the pyramid.

Design showing a hypothetical reconstruction of the C-4 pyramid. There appears to be a ramp, rather than stairs, at the top stage of the staircase. At the very top is a small temple with twin entrances. The pyramid contains the talud y tablera (slope and panel) architectural style. This reflects the influence of Teotihuacán (100 AD-650 AD) the great trading empire of central Mexico. Teotihuacán exercised considerable cultural, and possibly political, influence over the Early Classic Maya world.

Front view of C-4. Here you can make out where the staircase ends and the ramp begins. In addition, the twin entrances to the temple are clearly visible. Oddly, both the site's informational sign and one of my resource books speak of a second room on the left side of the staircase. As you can see, there is no room or even remnants of one. 

A Black Spiny-Tailed iguana basks in the morning sun. Every Maya ruin that I have ever visited involved an encounter with at least one iguana. This Ctenosaura similis seemed completely unconcerned by my presence. No doubt his distant ancestors took the same serene view of the ancient Maya inhabitants. 

This completes the first of my postings on Oxkintok. In the next one, I will complete my survey of the city's Ah Canul Group. I hope you have enjoyed this posting and, if so, you will leave any thoughts or questions in the Comments section below or email me directly. If you leave a question, please include your email address so that I can respond.

Hasta luego, Jim

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

A visit to Campeche's Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Margay cat (Leopardus wiedii). We found this small wild cat at Campeche's Zoo and Ecological Center. This beautiful animal is one of many that inhabit the Mexican State of Campeche and other parts of the Yucatan Peninsula. Most of these creatures live in deep forest or remote coastal areas and are wary of humans. Visiting this facility is a great way to see creatures you might not otherwise encounter. The Zoo and Ecological Center is open daily, except Monday. The hours are from 10am to 4pm.

The Margay is a solitary, nocturnal animal that is smaller, but otherwise similar in appearance, to the ocelot. Its habitat is forest land, either deciduous and evergreen. The cat's climbing ability allows it to hunt up in the trees rather than on the ground. The Margay's diet consists of birds and their eggs, lizards, monkeys, tree frogs, opossum, and fruit. The Margay's extra large eyes also assist in its hunting. Females usually produce only a single cub in a mating cycle and cubs suffer a 50% mortality rate, keeping normal population numbers small. However, illegal hunting and deforestation have reduced the already small population and caused Margays to be listed as a threatened species.

Northern crested caracara (Caracara cheriway). The caracara's wing span averages 125cm (49in) and its weight ranges from 0.45-0.9kg (1-2 lbs). It is not a fast flyer like its cousins the falcons. Consequently, this large bird is often a scavenger rather than a hunter. It has been observed walking or even running along the ground. The caracara has a very wide range. It has been spotted from the northern Amazonian Basin all the way up to New Brunswick, Canada. Normal habitat for the caracara is open agricultural land, but it can also be found in coastal woodlands and mangrove swamps.

Its diet is primarily carrion and slow-moving or immobile live prey. These, include small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fish, crabs, insects, and occasionally fruit. Some Mexican ornithologists believe that the caracara is the "eagle" depicted in sacred, pre-hispanic, Aztec codices. If true, the bird appearing on the Mexican national flag, sitting on a nopal cactus eating a snake, may well be a caracara.

Coatimundi (Nasua narica). Like their raccoon cousins, these little guys are active, clever, and dexterous. Although we found them in an enclosed area in the Zoo, the coatis had long since figured out how escape. A few moments after we appeared at their cage, coatis were suddenly in front of us on the sidewalk. They stood on their hind legs and extended their front paws in an obvious appeal for treats. We had nothing for them and, in any case, the Zoo discourages feeding them. After a bit, they departed with disgusted expressions. In their view, we were just another couple of stingy tourists.

Like the caracara, coatimundis have a wide range. They can be found everywhere from South America to the southwestern US. These little creatures have sharp teeth and it is therefore risky to keep them as pets. Their long prehensile tails are used for balance and signaling. Coatis often live in troops and extend their tails straight up to keep track of each other in brushy areas. Their diet consists of lizards, rodents, small birds and bird eggs, crocodile eggs, and invertebrates such as tarantulas.

American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus). There were a number of crocs at the Zoo, but I had trouble photographing them because their cages got in the way (probably a good thing, come to think of it). I finally found this one comfortably sunning itself in a more open area. The croc ignored me completely, not moving a muscle while I took photos from several angles.

American crocodiles are the most widespread of the four croc species in the Americas. Their range extends from Florida to the coasts of Mexico and all the way down to Peru and Venezuela. Although they prefer the salinity of coastal waters, they can also be found in fresh-water river systems. Preferred habitats include lagoons, brackish lakes, and coastal mangrove swamps.

This species of croc can grow as big as 6.1m (20 feet) and 907kg (2000 lbs). The croc's nostrils, eyes, and ears are all on the top of its head. This allows the rest of the body to remain under water when stalking prey. They can attack rapidly, both on land (16km/h or 10mph) and in the water (32 km/h or 20mph). Not the sort of creature you'd want to encounter while wading through a mangrove swamp.

Yucatecan white-tailed deer (Odolcoileus virginianus yucatenensis). The Zoo keeps a number of white-tailed deer in large open enclosures. The little faun above was nudging its mom, trying to get some milk. Mom was a little nervous about my presence. She kept moving around, while keeping her large dark eyes focused on me. The deer is named for its tail, which is white underneath. When threatened, it will flash the white as an alarm to other deer in the area. Although she was wary, her tail was down. I guess she didn't view me as an acute threat.

White-tailed deer have adapted to an astonishing variety of habitats, making them the most widely distributed ungulate in the Americas. Their populations have grown so large in some areas that they damage the forests in which they live. They also cause a substantial number auto accidents that are not only fatal to the deer but occasionally to humans as well. I can attest to that, having slammed into a large buck one night in the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia. Although the deer was killed, I was unhurt. The amount of damage to the car amazed me.

Northern black bellied whistling duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis). The duck gets its name from its noisy whistling call. My telephoto lens makes it appear that I am almost cheek-by-jowl with the duck. It was a very cooperative subject, remaining perfectly still.

The northern black-bellied whistling duck ranges from the southern US to western Panama. Large flocks gather in quiet shallow lakes, ponds and marshes. Like swans and geese, breeding pairs stay together for many years at a time. A pair will share all the tasks of raising their young, which grow up quickly. The ducklings leap from their nests within two days of hatching and can feed themselves immediately. Whistling ducks are not migratory, although flocks may move about locally. They generally feed at night on plant material, but also eat insects, spiders, crustaceans, and various aquatic invertebrates.

Yucatecan raccoon (Procyon lotor hernandezii). This guy was dead to the world. He probably had a hard night out, binging on the contents of local garbage bins. The species is also called Mexican plateau raccoon, or just common raccoon. Like their coati cousins, raccoons are dexterous and ingenious at escaping enclosures. They are also notorious burglars, complete with black eye-masks.

The common raccoon's range is from southern Canada to Central America. Life expectancy can be up to 16 years. They feed omnivorously on small mammals, rodents, birds and their eggs, insects, berries, and fruit. Raccoons love to scavenge in garbage containers and will even break into a house and ransack the cupboards. They are quite fastidious and are known for brushing dirt off their food and even washing it before eating.

Peccary (Pecari tajacu). Peccaries are in the family Tayasuidae, which means New World pig. However, zoologists now think they don't belong in the pig family at all. Although they share some similarities in appearance to the Old World pigs introduced during the Spanish Conquest, their hooves and the structure of their stomachs are different. The ancient Maya kept them as pets, as well as for food.

Peccaries are also called javelina, due to their sharp tusks. However, they are usually not aggressive toward people unless they feel threatened. These animals are quite social and sometimes travel in herds of more than 100. They are omnivorous, with a diet that includes roots, grasses, seeds, and cacti, but also insects, grubs and the occasion small animal.

Black spiny-tailed iguana (Ctenosaura similis). Although ferocious in appearance, these are very gentle animals and are often kept as pets. Like the American crocodile and the whistling duck, this iguana remained perfectly still while I took my photographs.

Black spiny-tailed iguanas get their names from the black stripes on their bodies and the spines that grow in a ridge along their tails. They are the largest and fastest-running species in the genus Ctenosaura. Iguanas are also excellent climbers. This species prefers a rocky habitat with crevices in which to hide from predators. While they are not aggressive, they will lash out with their tails or even bite when cornered. While juveniles tend to eat insects, adults become herbivores as they age. They can be found throughout southern Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula and down through Central America to the coast of Colombia.

Mexican dog (Doggus houndus). Just kidding on the scientific name! This pooch epitomizes the expression "laid back." As to his breed, my father would have called him "100% Mexican dog". He apparently belongs to one of the staff and has free run of the Zoo. We were the only visitors that morning, so he tagged along with us. In addition to the ones I have displayed, there are many more creatures here. The Zoo and Ecological Center really deserves a visit if you want to take a look at Campeche's wild animals.

Jardin Botanico X'much Haltún

The botanical garden is housed in Baluarte de Santiago. It stands across the street from Hotel Plaza Campeche, where we stayed during out visit. The baluarte (bastion or fort) is one of eight that surround Old Campeche, connected by high walls. Two guard posts perch high on the corners. The man leaning against the baluarte's corner provides some scale to show the height of the walls.  You can visit the baluarte and its botanical garden daily, except for Sunday, from 8am-2pm and 5pm-8pm. On Sunday, the hours are 8am-2pm.

Completed in 1704, Baluarte Santiago was the last of the eight bastions built to protect against pirate attacks. However, this is not the original baluarte, which was demolished at the beginning of the 20th century. Pirate attacks had long since ceased and, in any case, the old stone walls were no defense against modern naval guns. This replica was built in the 1950s.

The garden's name, X'much-Haltún, means "water that flows from the earth". Once you walk through the main entrance and leave the bustling city behind, you enter a different world. The high thick walls shield you from traffic noise. While the conditions outside may be hot and sticky, here it is moist, cool, and shady. The thick jungle surrounding you contains more than 98 different species of Campeche's medicinal, edible, and ornamental plants.

Bamboo clump. Mexico has 8 genera and 37 species of bamboo. Of these, the genus Olmeca and its 14 species are endemic (grow only in Mexico). There was no informational sign, so I am not clear which species this is. However it is almost certainly of the genus Olmeca, since the garden is devoted primarily to native species. Bamboo belongs to the grass family. The plant's name comes to us from the Dutch or Portuguese explorers of the East Indies, who translated it from Malay.

This plant grows incredibly fast, as much as 910mm (36in) in 24 hours. However, growth speed is related to soil and climate conditions. Anyone who has mistakenly planted bamboo as an ornamental knows that it requires a constant struggle to avoid being overwhelmed. Since ancient times, bamboo has been used for building materials, tools, furniture, fences, scaffolding, cooking utensils, even weapons. Pre-hispanic Maya codices show them using bamboo in some of these ways.

Chit palm (Thrinax radiata). Its common name is thatch palm, because of widespread use to thatch roofs. Chit is a Maya word, sometimes spelled Chi'it. This palm can grow up to 6m (20ft) in height and its range extends from southern Florida, through the Caribbean, to the coasts of Yucatan and Belize. It prefers the narrow strip of land between sandy beaches and inland Mangrove swamps. Unfortunately, this is exactly where developers like to build beach properties, so the Chit palm has become endangered in some highly developed areas. Fortunately, the Caribbean coast of Campeche is largely undeveloped. In addition to thatching roofs, the Chit's palm fronds are used as brooms.

Coconut palm (Cocos nucifera). Stately coconut palms require sandy soil and high humidity. They not only grow wild, but are cultivated in great groves in coastal areas where the palms can reach up to 30m (98ft). Scientists believe that the coconut palms of the Caribbean and East Coast of Mexico originated in West Africa. They were brought to the Americas by the Spanish and Portuguese during the early colonial period.

Coconut palms have been used for a variety of purposes since very ancient times. The coconut fruit has an edible interior and contains a nutritious "milk". Coconut oil is used in cooking, particularly frying. The husk of the fruit can be used as a bowl, cup, or a digging tool, and can be burned as a fuel as well. The leaves of the palm can be thatched for roofs, woven into baskets, or used as brooms. The trunks make excellent building materials.

Flor de Mayo (Plumeria rubra). In Mexico, its common name is cacaloxóchitl, a Nahuatl word meaning "crows flower". The frangrancy of the plant persuaded a 16th century Italian noble to use the Flor de Mayo to make perfume. His family name was Frangipani, which became yet another name for the plant.

The range of the Flor de Mayo runs from central Mexico through Central America and down to Colombia and Venezuela. Since it was discovered by Europeans in the 16th century, it has been introduced to other areas, including Africa and Asia. The plant likes hot rocky areas and a climate that ranges from dry to moderate rainfall. It is used for decorative gardens but also for Hawaiian leis and for medicinal purposes.

Croton (Codiaeum variegatum). While its colors make it attractive, crotons need to be handled with care. The sap can cause skin eczema and the bark, roots, latex and leaves are all poisonous. The seeds can be fatal to children who ingest them. The plant was introduced to the Americas from Asia, where it is native to Indonesia, Australia, Malayasia, and the western Pacific islands. When growing in the wild, it favors open forests and scrubland.

Strangler fig (genus Ficus, species?). Strangler figs wrap themselves around another tree, hence the name. However, this process apparently does not harm the host tree and can even help it withstand strong winds. The "strangling" process begins when wind-blown ficus seeds are deposited in the crevices of a host's trunk. The strangler grows down to reach the soil and up to reach the sunlight. These trees are particularly prevalent in dark forests when sunlight is scarce. After the host tree dies and rots away, the strangler often remains as a hollow structure.

Jungle flame (Ixorra coccinea). The Jungle flame, also known as Flame of the Woods, is another native of southern Asia, specifically India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. It likes hot weather and moist, organically rich, and well-drained soil. The flowers, leaves, roots, and stem can be used medicinally and the fruit is edible when ripe. However, its main use is in decorative gardens.

Screw pine (Pandanus utilis). The screw pine has been described as "amazingly bizarre" and I'd have to agree. When I came upon this plant, I first thought the teepee of rods were some sort of support system put up by the gardeners. Then it dawned upon me that these were the roots of a plant! The screw pine is not a pine, despite the name, and not a palm, although its foliage vaguely resembles that of a palm.

These tropical trees need lots of space and a warm climate. They are tolerant to both droughts and salt, due to their adaptation to coastal areas. They get their "pine" appellation from their edible pineapple-like fruit. Be careful around them because the edges of their leaves have little spines that can painfully stick the unwary person.

A wall-top guard post is a reminder of the purpose of the original baluarte. The little structure is hardly larger than an old-fashioned phone booth. It has three gun slits, one looking out and one on either side looking down the length of the walls. As with the animals of the Zoo and Ecology Center, the X'much Haltun Botanical Garden has many more plants than I show here. If you like plants, I encourage you to stop by and enjoy this place.

This completes my posting on the fauna and flora of Campeche. I hope you enjoyed it and, if so, that you will leave any thoughts or questions in the Comments section below. If you leave a question, PLEASE leave your email address so that I can respond.

Hasta luego, Jim